Ann Arbor Public Schools bus complaints continue to roll in
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com
There are high school students in the Ann Arbor Hills neighborhood that have a 3.1-mile walk to Huron High School, said parent Niki Wardner, while students in nearby Burns Park neighborhood have a common stop at Tappan Middle School, where a bus takes them to Pioneer High School, just two miles away. That, she said, isn’t fair.
The common stops should be equally and fairly decided,” Wardner said. “If we don’t get one, Burns Park shouldn’t get one.”
While the district established a 1.5-mile walk zone for all students, it never promised to bus high school students who were more than 1.5 mile away from school, said Liz Margolis, director of communications for the district. Instead, the district, after first considering eliminating high school bus service all together, established common bus stops, a system of centrally located stops such as neighborhood schools that transport high school students.
When school opened Sept. 6, the number of high school bus routes was reduced to 30 from 60, and the number of stops on each route also was cut in half, Margolis said. The common stops were established using a formula that took into account past ridership, likely ridership and location. High school busing for the Ann Arbor Hills area was eliminated, she said.
The Ann Arbor Hills neighborhood had a history of low ridership, Margolis said, with some buses traveling empty in the past. That figured into eliminating high school busing in the neighborhood, Margolis said. That doesn’t mean there aren’t parents who need busing, she said.
“I don’t like to be cold-hearted ... It's unfair everywhere. We wish we didn’t have to do this.”
The district is working with PTOs and community centers to encourage carpooling, Margolis said.
But that carpooling is creating another problem, Wardner said. There’s congestion in the morning and afternoon as an increased number of students are either dropped off or are driving to Huron High, she said. “There is gridlock.” Margolis said she has not heard any reports of gridlock at the high schools.
While a route won’t be added to Ann Arbor Hills, the district will decide by Friday where to add some additional stops for high school students, Margolis said. Already, two high school buses were added: One at the Northside and one at the Logan schools common stops, where ridership was double what was expected, Margolis said. The parking lots at the two elementary schools during peak times are packed, she said, with parents dropping off or picking up their high school students.
“It’s going to be crowded for eight to 10 minute periods,” she said. It will take two weeks to smooth out all the transportation kinks, Margolis said.
The district had to cut $15 million from its budget, and $1 million of that came from eliminating some bus service.
Other area districts also are having problems with bus systems, including Ypsilanti.
Janet Miller is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com. Contact the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.